Water Matters

What covers 2/3 of Earth and accounts for 3/4 of the total mass in our bodies, yes, WATER! This weekend was amazing! I had the chance to be part of the Nobel Dialogue week, where I listened to incredible scientist, leaders, and Nobel Prize laureates at the Stockholm City Congress Hall. This was a full-day event free of charge and it aimed to stimulate discussion among the panelist in different topics related to water.

Banner from the event.

As you may know, in 1895, Alfred Nobel’s testament stated that his fortune should be used to create what it is today known as de Nobel Foundation to award and give prizes to the brightest minds each year in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. Moreover, in 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel; hence, every year during these dates, the Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm’s City Hall by the King of Sweden except for the Peace Prize that is awarded in Oslo, Norway. Now, going back to this Nobel week, the talks at Water Matters left it clear, our oceans and water cycles are being the first victims of climate change, as Johan Rockström, notable Swedish scientist and leader of the team that developed the planetary boundaries framework.

From left to right, Lisen Schultz (moderator), Johan Rockström (Professor at Stockholm Resilience Center), Steven Chu (Nobel in Physics 97′), and Julian Dowdeswell (Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute). 

Why water matters? Let me list you some facts heard in the talks about the importance of water and how we are disrupting this system.

  •  In many developing countries 90% of waste water and 70% of industrial waste is discharged without treatment and more than 200 dead-zone areas are known around the planet. Don’t know what a dead-zone area is? Well, the Baltic Sea is a pretty clear example of nutrient pollution, minimal O2 levels, and almost cero marine biodiversity.
  • 25 % of global CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans waves making the water more acid. You know what acid what does? Destroys the coral reefs. Why are coral reefs important? Well, nutrient recycling for marine food chains (yes, we eat some of these species too), species diversity, protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms (yes, they help when storms strike), and many more.
  • A report showed a list of cities around the glove that are most likely to run out of drinking water soon – they include London, Jakarta, São Paulo, Tokyo, and Mexico City. Pretty sure you know that these cities have a highly dense population. Have you heard about Cape Town water problem? The first city of many more in the list.

And I could go on with interesting facts and numbers that show how important this FINITE resource is to us. And I mean all of us, as the conference I could notice that an international audience was involved from the languages they spoke… even the Crown Princess Victoria was there! 

Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden.

As you can see this event was THE EVENT for water-related issues. Moreover, the panelist offered a great time for the audience as they clearly knew what they were talking about; what I mean with the last one, is that I’ve been in talks with the private sector and “sustainability leaders” from big international companies, and you can clearly notice how the information they share is just to promote the company and to do some kind of green wash using trending words as sustainability, climate change, and plastics. The people talking at this conference knew the real deal and knew how to transmit “easily” the key information of their work.

Finally, as you can see in the image above, panelist were mixed from different organisations and encouraged to talk about what we could do to positive contribute in the matter and reduce our water footprint. Some of the key messages were,

  • Reduce consumption of goods. This means stop buying things we don’t need. Those jeans, that sweater, that new iphone every year has an environmental (water) impact associated.
  • Change out diets. Be flexeterian/vegeterian more days per week than a meat eater. Not only livestock production contributes to 15 % of global GHG, but it has a huuuuge water footprint (yes, we are talking about thousands of litters to produce 1 kg of beef).
  • Raise our voice. Demand to our politicians to work in sustainable solutions. Let’s remember -personal opinion- that most politicians think only within their terms limits and how to get votes. Environmental issues don’t appear from one day to the other, so we need long-term solutions, and I mean 5, 10, 50 years based plans!

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What’s warm as the Sun and spicy as a jalapeño? My home country México. My name is Fernando and I came to Sweden to study the master’s programme in Sustainable Technology at KTH. Come, join me to learn and understand the importance of having a sustainable lifestyle, and where else to do this than in Sweden?